Muslim workers seek religious accommodation for food to break fast
ST. PAUL, Minn., July 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today called on Swedish appliance manufacturer Electrolux to grant legally-mandated religious accommodation to Muslim employees at its St. Cloud, Minn., plant during the upcoming Ramadan fast.
Earlier this year, Electrolux adopted a new policy that prohibits all food on the production floor. Since that policy was put in place, Muslim employees, their union representatives and CAIR-MN have worked to seek an exception to allow the workers to bring a snack onto the production floor to break their fast at sunset during the month of Ramadan.
All requests for religious accommodation have been ignored by Electrolux officials, despite the fact that the majority of the more than 300 employees who work the evening shift are Muslim.
"It is disappointing that Electrolux is ignoring its legal obligation to provide reasonable religious accommodation to its employees," said CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam. "We believe this issue can be resolved once Electrolux engages with its Muslim workers to devise a solution that meets the legitimate needs and requirements of all parties."
Ramadan, which will begin on or about August 10, is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset. Muslims break the fast each day with food and drink immediately after sunset.
In the past, Muslim employees working the second shift at Electrolux were allowed to bring a snack onto the production floor so they could break their fast at the required time. The employees would then eat a full meal during their regularly-scheduled breaks.
Electrolux has made it clear that it intends to punish or even fire Muslim employees who are caught with food on the production floor during Ramadan.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals based on their religion. Employers are also required to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of their employees or prospective employees unless an "undue hardship" would prevent them from doing so.
CAIR-MN assisted Muslim employees in filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against the company after attempts to negotiate directly with Electrolux were ignored. CAIR-MN is seeking to resolve the matter before Ramadan begins.
In 2003, a similar complaint was filed with the EEOC against Electrolux on behalf of 165 Somali Muslim workers after the company subjected them to unlawful employment discrimination denying prayer in the workplace.
That complaint was resolved after Electrolux agreed to allow Muslim employees to pray at work. The company also provided a Somali translator at specified occasions, translated policies and procedures into Somali, provided diversity training, and made donations to refugee services.
SEE: EEOC, Electrolux Resolve Prayer Complaint (September 25, 2003)
On August 4, 2010, CAIR-MN will hold its annual "Positive Interactions" employer workshop to address issues of religious accommodation in the workplace. In 2009, more than 25 managers from various corporations throughout Minnesota attended the workshop to better understand the legal obligation of religious accommodation and to learn about customs and practices of Muslim employees.
CAIR offers a booklet, called "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," to help employers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the workplace.
SEE: An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties group. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam, Esq., 651-587-4712, E-Mail: [email protected]; CAIR-MN Assistant Director of Civil Rights Zahra Aljabri, Esq., 651-645-7102, E-Mail: [email protected]; CAIR-MN President Lori Saroya, 612-327-6700, E-Mail: [email protected]; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: [email protected]
SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations